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Activist's spirit lives on in Long Beach bike ride

CURB Bike Ride organizers are, from left, Casey

CURB Bike Ride organizers are, from left, Casey Kantor, Bill Papetti and Matt Demerest, all 22, of Long Beach. Photo Credit: Handout

When the summer hits, Long Beach friends Casey Kantor, Bill Papetti and Matt Demerest look to their bicycles for transportation around the city.

That’s what the trio, all 22, were thinking eight years ago when they decided that the city needed an annual bike ride. They got a strong response from the community, and decided to use the ride to raise money for Long Beach-based Citizens United to Remove Barriers, an organization known as CURB that works to build ramps, provide equipment and raise awareness for the physically challenged.

CURB founder, Jim Conlon, was confined to a wheelchair after surgery for an aneurysm and started the organization in 1985 after discovering he couldn’t get off of the sidewalk on Pennsylvania Avenue, where he lived. He worked with the city to get curb cuts installed in city sidewalks and, through CURB, funded the construction of ramps for people who didn’t have handicap access to their homes. His work with the city had made him a prominent Long Beach figure, according to Papetti.

“He always did something for everybody,” Papetti said. “So we wanted to do something for him.”

Conlon died just a few days before the first ride at age 64, so every year it is held in his name. Since its start the CURB Bike Ride has raised more than $30,000, according to Jim Monahan, CURB president. More than 250 riders brought in $8,500 last year, enough  to cover the cost of all of the lumber the organization needed to build ramps throughout the year.

All of the labor is donated by retired Capt. John McCarthy, of the New York City Fire Department, and Eddie Cunningham, a retired FDNY chief. The two Long Beach residents have been working with CURB for the past six years.

This year’s ride starts at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 13. The cost is $20, and participants can register at bike4curb.com.

Kantor said riders of all ages are welcome to participate in the 12-mile ride. This year more than 400 riders are expected -- nearly 150 have already registered.

“Long Beach is a huge biking community,” Kantor said. “There’s no other biking event in the city at all.”

Photo: CURB Bike Ride organizers, from left, Casey Kantor, Bill Papetti and Matt Demerest.

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